Cross Manage is an interesting choice for a new manga to appear in Shonen Jump Alpha. Right off the bat it is a sports manga. While the Japanese love sports manga it is consistently one of the worst selling genres in the U.S. So I am slightly surprised by Viz deciding to run with a lacrosse manga in the online publication. I’m not saying it is a horrible idea. If your going to try to test the waters with an unpopular genre than a lower risk medium like an online magazine is definitely the way to go. Plus the only way that sports manga will ever succeed in the US is if a title is there to change people’s mind. It might not be Cross Manage but at least Cross Manage is getting a chance to see if it could be that manga.
The other unusual factor is that it is about a girl’s lacrosse team with a male manager. So far it seems to be in a general vein of a shonen sports manga only the genders of the cast have been flipped. This is hardly the first manga to do that but there are somethings that makes it stand out from your mainstream sport manga that does this. The first is that the team hardly seems to be moe girls. We only really see Misora but I am getting the impression that the lacrosse team falls more into the mold of standard shonen roles than moe character roles.
So that means that the standard BL support for a sport series is pretty much torpedoed. There might be additional male characters besides Sakurai but the cast is not the normal smorgasbord of hot guys waiting to be paired up like it usually is. I’m not saying that girls can’t get aboard a show without guys to ship. If the female characters are good I am sure it can easily gain a female fanbase. But it will not have the automatic fujoshi fanbase your standard shonen sports manga would have.
At the same time you don’t have the standard K-On! with lacrosse outfits audience as well. So I am left wondering who (if anyone) will latch onto this series. It is not like there is nothing to like about the manga. The characters seem fun and the lacrosse is hardly an overused sport for manga. I will say the plot, characters, and even art style almost seem a bit more Shonen Sunday than Shonen Jump but maybe that is just me.
I have to say I was impressed with one minor factor. Sakurai is very clearly afraid of girls. He goes out of his way to avoid contact with women all together. You have to be particularly dense to miss that point. They show it constantly. The thing is no one directly says it. None of his friends go, “Man that Sakurai sure is gynophobic. He has been afraid of women for as long as I have known him.” I know that some people have a problem with modern manga being a bit too heavy of the tell and not the show. This nicely proves that is not always the case even in a simple sports manga.
I don’t think I would have casually guessed girl’s lacrosse manga as what replaced Barrage in Alpha even if you had given me 100 guesses. So I am very curious to see how this pans out the U.S. and Japan. It could be a quickly forgotten fluke or it just might slightly shake up the world of shonen sport manga. Only time will tell.
I couldn’t have been more excited to hear a sports manga would be appearing in Shonen Jump Alpha! I’ve been hoping for something like this, but honestly I know how far most American publish turn away from sports titles. In addition, Cross Manage also ended up being a rather unexpected story for Jump.
Sakurai starts the manga in the photography club and we quickly learn that he has been making his way through the clubs at school without much passion for any. Still he is determined to find something but out right rejects sports as an option. I found him likeable and root worthy as it is hinted at that he got a bad injury that has put him off playing sports despite a love for them.
Misora is a basically energetic and happy character, but she doesn’t feel one-dimensional. If I could complain about anything, it’s be Sakurai basically learning how to hit the ball in Lacrosse in under 5-minutes. He then proceeds to show Misora, who’s been practicing nonstop, how to do it right. It just felt a little patronizing towards her. On the other hand, it fleshes out his competence with sports and again makes us wonder about his refusal to play.
What is most interesting to me in this setup is that Sakurai can’t become a sports star if we are focused on a girl’s Lacrosse team. And that rather excites me. Lately I’ve seen more series focusing on or at least highlighting super awesome managers or coaches so this could follow in that line.
The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.